33 billion reasons to read this article on candles

…and our reason for not taking part in the climate demonstrations

After several years of watching the climate debate develop – and after watching so many protests on climate change – I would like to point to a solution, instead of participating in non-constructive arguments and doomsday scenarios. So, let me explain my solution and why I choose not to participate in climate demonstrations.

First, some facts – of which not many people are aware:

Europe alone produces 536 562 metric tons of candles per year (src. Eurostat, 2009) and the majority of these candles are still produced using paraffin. With production not having decreased since 2009, this represents use of a rounded 500 000 metric tons (or half a billion kg.) of paraffin per year.

You probably already know that paraffin is derived from petroleum, just like diesel and petrol. This means that the majority of candles produced in Europe are non-renewable.  Period. This is as indisputable as the non-renewability of diesel and petrol.

What does this mean? 

If you burn 500 000 mt of paraffin yearly you produce 1 563 981 mt of CO2.  Or 3 128 mt of CO2 for every 1 000 mt of paraffin burned.

For the purists:

500 000 mt of paraffin

MMAVGParaffin = 422 g/mol

MMCO2 = 44 g/mol

2 C30H62  +  91 O2  →  60 CO2  +  62 H20

500 000/422*(30*44) = 1 563 981 mt CO2

a burning paraffin candle produces about 3 times its own mass in CO2

Will you now feel a small amount of guilt every time you burn a candle for Earth Hour?

Well, you should. However, as stated in the introduction above, there’s a solution! Our first post on social media stated that Nchem supports the production of truly sustainable candles. Using 100% natural wax, they are paraffin-free. Our Ncast product range makes natural waxes more aesthetically attractive and makes it easier to press candles. We’re not going to enter the discussion on the sources of these natural waxes (palm, soy, tallow, rapeseed, sunflower, olive, etc.), but a locally-sourced wax is, of course, more sustainable, despite whatever well-intended eco labels the various waxes might carry. And many candle manufacturers are already moving in the right direction on this issue.

Why an additive?

Natural waxes, in general, don’t have the most attractive appearance – you wouldn’t buy such candles. Our additives prevent these aesthetic imperfections, which means people will buy them.  As a consumer you won’t notice the difference between a candle made with our additive and a paraffin wax candle. Which is why we want to create consumer awareness on this issue, especially when it comes to candles.

tealights from palm oil, with the so called cauliflower-effect (right) and with 0,2% Ncast1231 added (left)

Ok Niels, you may say, but is your additive sustainable?

Yes, my additive is 95% derived from natural waxes, while less than 5% of it is of synthetic origin. At a dosage ratio of less than 1% (sometimes as low as 0.2%), the synthetic component drops to below 0.05% of the entire candle. We’re not responsible, of course, for the choice of synthetic fragrances and colourants, which could be up to 8% of the candle. (So, if you see 0.05% synthetic content as a problem, drop the scented and coloured candles first)

Not sure of the content of the candles you just bought?

Ask the shop, or ask the manufacturer. Let them know that you want to purchase 100% natural wax candles, it’s as simple as that. It’s more effective than just protesting about sustainability – and easier, particularly if you’re doing so in the pouring rain! And be critical about labelling. We’ve seen labels stating ‘Eco-friendly paraffin candles’. This is pure nonsense. Paraffin – like diesel – is never eco-friendly.

Why 33 billion reasons?

If all 500 000 mt of candles were produced in the form of tealights (and the majority are) – this means 33 billion tealights at 15g per tealight. Everyone encounters tealights daily, and most of them are definitely made from paraffin.

Burntests of tealights at Nchem.

Follow our successes on LinkedIn or Facebook – and write to those candle manufacturers!

What did you do for Mother Earth recently?

4 thoughts on “33 billion reasons to read this article on candles

  1. Very interesting article. So much candles used in Europe…
    But is not the target of the climate demonstrations C02 production rather then Oil consumption?
    Because, even with your additive, the candles produce C02, or do I misunderstand?

    1. Dear John,
      Thank you for your reply. It is indeed about CO2 production. But that’s exactly the difference between ‘renewable’ and ‘non-renewable’. Natural waxes are renewable, the plants and seeds captured “young’ CO2 when growing in the field/plantage, while paraffin is non-renewable, it is derived from petroleum. So by burning paraffin you release ‘old’ CO2, that was captured millions of years ago, when the earth was warmer than now. So you’re right: candles do produce CO2, but it’s good to know the source of the CO2. Is this clear enough?

  2. The problem disscussed here is only half of the story. The candles are provided in aluminum cups and their production and/or recyle is not included in the energy balance. There are already solutions out there which substitute aluminium or plastic cups by a material that is 100% biodegradable by composting. The candle is sold by Cup Candle and Wenzel.

    1. Dear Dr. Wolff,
      Thank you for your reply. That’s indeed true. But the first candles made at Wenzel and Cup Candle with our additive in it, are pillar candles, so they don’t come with the alu cup 😉 But I’m sure that’s the next project 🙂
      The #tags for Wenzel and Cup Candle are added in our other article of our visit to Christmasworld2019.

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